Saintseneca’s Zac Little has been thinking a lot about memory. Not necessarily his memories, though they creep in often, too. Rather, he mulls over the idea of memory itself: its resilience, its haziness, how it slips away as we try to hang on, the way it resurfaces despite our best efforts to forget.
Memory is the common thread running throughout the Columbus folk-punk band’s fourth album, Pillar of Na, arriving in late summer via ANTI- Records. Following 2015's critically lauded Such Things, the new album’s name is rooted in remembrance, referencing the Genesis story of Lot’s wife who looks back at a burning Sodom after God instructs her not to. She looks back, and God turns her into a pillar of salt. “Na,” meanwhile, is the chemical symbol for sodium. "Nah" is a passive refusal and the universal song word. It means nothing and stands for nothing. It is "as it is."
Like Lot's wife, Little cannot help but revisit where—and how—he grew up. Raised in church in southeastern Appalachian Ohio, he took up preaching when he was still a teenager, sometimes in small country settings and other times to congregations of thousands. But these days he's more interested in listening. And questioning.
Musically, Pillar of Na is Saintseneca’s most ambitious album to date, with Little aiming to incorporate genre elements he’d rarely heard in folk. “I wanted to use the idiom of folk-rock, or whatever you want to call it, and to try to do something that had never been done before," Little explains. "To reach way back, echoing ancient folk melodies, tie that into punk rock, and then push it into the future. I told Mike Mogis I wanted Violent Femmes meets the new Blade Runner soundtrack. I'm looking for the intersection between Kendrick Lamar and The Fairport Convention.”
“You're always going to be situated in the folk legacy,” Little continues, acknowledging his past recordings, which include three albums (the aforementioned Such Things, 2014's Dark Arc, 2011's Last) and three EPs (2016's The Mallwalker, 2010's Grey Flag, and 2009's self-titled). “But let’s move forward. I'm not trying to make the lost Velvet Underground B-side. I want to find something that has never been heard before, or at least go down trying."
Squalloscope is Anna Kohlweis, who exists as a songwriter, music producer, multimedia artist, illustrator and singer based in Vienna, Austria. “Exoskeletons for Children” is her fifth full-length album after “Soft Invasions” (2012, Seayou Records) and three albums under the Paper Bird moniker.
„Exoskeletons for Children“ was released in 2017 on Fake Four Inc. (US) and Seayou Records (A). Kohlweis wrote and recorded the album in her Austrian childhood home, in friends’ apartments, and in basements of the American Midwest over the course of two years, carefully weaving a tapestry of field recordings, beats, synths and guitars for the album’s visually rich narrative.
There is a commanding nonchalance about the vocal delivery on this record. Squalloscope bends and pitches layers of her own vocals to form the backbone of a narrative centered around growing pains, humor, and intimacy. “Let’s build exoskeletons for children, let them know we got their backs. Let them know we got their noses, let them know we got their pinkies until they crack”, she sings on the album’s title track. Squalloscope’s music has been described as both uplifting and gut-punching and a listener recently proclaimed it felt “as if someone had run over [their] emotions with a cheese grater”. Strange pains seem like an appropriate reaction to this material.
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